Forty '90s Albums That Still Hold Up

The cover of U2's Achtung Baby
The cover of U2's Achtung Baby

Steve Wiley is Up on the Sun's resident Record Store Geek. He shares stories of great music and wacky characters from his continuing 27 years in Valley record stores and the always zany music biz.

At the end of July, I wrote about Five Reasons I Don't Write About New Music, the most important of which is that new music hasn't stood the test of time. I prefer to talk about the stuff that holds up.

Over the years, I've given you all recommendations on jazz, blues, soul, even Brazilian music. I explained which decade of music was the best ('67-'77), and I even made a list of great albums from the worst decade (The '80s, duh).

But I haven't gotten a chance to lead you through the '90s ... and whether you like it or not, my aging brothers and sisters, that decade started almost 25 years ago! No time like the present, so here's 40 Albums From the '90s That Still Hold Up.

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I realize tackling the '90s is going to get me in trouble. It's a high and mighty decade.

All you have to do is go through a couple of the critics' lists to see how many wonder bands made their mark in the 20th century's final decade. The kind of bands critics love. The kind that a huge majority of record geeks idolize.

You know, the alternative bands.

What is now the most ironic term in music was the only moniker that many of the music elitists of the '90s would allow in their ears.

The "A" word, and a good deal of the bands it represented, annoyed me then, and it annoys me now.

Look at the Pitchfork list. See what I mean? It's exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned that critics are full of shit.

Holy alterna-pretentious hilarity, Batman. They all look like that. One of them says they love a band, and they all join in.

So yes, I want to do this.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't like any of the albums on the "Best of the '90s" critics' list, nor am I questioning whether many of my "non-faves" deserve to be on the list.

But it doesn't matter, because no matter how you slice it, the '90s were loaded with quality music.

The list is huge.

FORTY? Never in my life have a made such a monster.

As it is, I had to whittle the list down.

As you'll see, its way off the beaten path of the general critics list. It doesn't include many of the all-time classics (Nevermind, 10, OK Computer, Under the Table and Dreaming), simply because they were worn out so bad with in-store and radio play that I don't listen to them anymore.

I'm not talking about then. I'm talking about now.

And I'm asking the ultimate questions about the creative art of the album: 1) Do they still hold up two decades later? and 2) Do I still listen to them now, or did they wear-out or grow dated?

Let's take a look.



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